The State Of The 2013 Pitching Staff Without Chris Carpenter
Following yesterday’s dispiriting press conference that all but closed the lid on the brilliant Cardinal career of Chris Carpenter, speculation began about how the 2013 rotation might recover from his loss. Admittedly, it’s a huge role to fill on this team. What can the Cardinals do to seal the breach left by Carpenter’s departure?
This is the first thing many fans need to accept: the Cardinals are not going to re-sign Kyle Lohse. Let’s just put that idea away, okay?
It makes perfect sense. Lohse and his demonic agent Scott “Screw Baseball” Boras are looking for a contract featuring multiple years and an annual salary above $15M per season. And that’s reasonable in this market for a 34 year-old pitcher who compiled a 30-11 record over two seasons while leading the staff for a playoff contending team. If Lohse is going to cash in, this is the perfect moment to do so.
The Cardinals should absolutely not make Lohse the highest or second-highest paid player on this team, even for one season. That’s particularly true when they are faced with a potentially-absurd contract for Adam Wainwright in the very near future.
At this point, the rotation consists of Wainwright, Jake Westbrook (how his stock has soared recently!!), and Jaime Garcia. I expect a huge year from Wainwright (as his velocity and curve become more consistent with additional strengthening) and a Westbrookian year from Waino’s dugout dance partner (10-13 wins, steady as a heartbeat). As for Garcia, who knows? I fully expect his shoulder to blow out at some point and require the surgery that three doctors have already recommended. If he manages to pitch for us, expect more emotional turbulence.
The fourth spot in the rotation obviously belongs to Lance Lynn despite my misgivings. It’s hard to ignore the 18 wins and the 9 strikeouts per nine innings. It’s also hard to be bullish on a pitcher with a 1.318 WHIP who also showed emotional meltdown problems late in the season. Still, I think Lynn needs to have this spot until he proves otherwise. Hopefully he shows up in better shape next week.
As for that newly-created fifth spot, I think we will finally see Shelby Miller‘s arrival in the major leagues. While the organization seems constantly annoyed by Miller’s attitude, there’s no denying his talent. It seems like we’ve been talking about Miller forever. It’s time to put the kid out there and make him work for all of the premature praise.
If Miller doesn’t work out, then Joe Kelly seems like the most obvious solution. I absolutely love Kelly. He’s not the most talented pitcher on the staff, but he has the intangibles that often define a winning pitcher. Kelly doesn’t whimper or flinch like Lynn and Garcia when faced with adversity, he simply strides back to the mound and unleashes his zippy 97 mph fastball. In my perfect world, Kelly makes this rotation. However, I’d love to see him in long relief as well.
Which leaves Trevor Rosenthal twisting in the wind. I can guarantee you this: Rosenthal will be on the 2013 major league team. Somewhere. He was one of the most talked about talents in the playoffs last year, casually reaching 100 mph on the gun and obliterating everything in his path. He could be a starter, a long reliever, or a closer. Carpenter himself spent most of 2012 and this offseason grooming Rosie, and the kid is responding to the tutelage.
Here’s how I see the rotation and bullpen as of now (before any injuries or trades, of course)
- Adam Wainwright
- Jake Westbrook
- Jaime Garcia
- Lance Lynn
- Shelby Miller
- Jason Motte (R) – closer
- Mitchell Boggs (R)
- Edward Mujica (R)
- Joe Kelly (R)
- Trevor Rosenthal (R)
- Marc Rzepczynski (L)
- Randy Choate (L)
That lineup, of course, leaves Fernando Salas out of a job here in St. Louis. I’m predicting a relatively-minor trade of Salas soon. If Garcia goes down, then I imagine a scenario where Kelly bumps into the rotation and Maikel Cleto returns to the big leagues.
Frankly, I don’t think the Cardinals have had a bullpen that good since the eighties, and it would capably support a promising rotation.